Friday, 12 June 2015 07:00

More power to switch broadband provider

Written by  Ruralcity Media
More power to switch broadband provider

NEW rules aim to make it easier for rural broadband users to switch provider so they get a better service.

Telecoms watchdog Ofcom said broadband providers also needed to provide better information so customers could compare offers and services.

The new measure will allow customers to cancel their broadband contract if speeds fall below an acceptable level and make it easier to change broadband providers.

In her first speech since becoming Ofcom chief executive, Sharon White told a Which? conference that the communications industry must serve customers better.

While customer service levels in the industry had improved, people still found it too difficult to change provider and cancel contracts, and were frustrated with customer service.

Ms White said: "As communications services become ever more important in our daily lives, so does their quality and reliability.

"Therefore, it is important that consumers know what to expect from a service when they enter a contract, and where to turn to when things go wrong."

New broadband customers will be able to walk away from providers during the whole term of the contract, not just the first three months, if they suffer problems that cannot be resolved.

Campaigners said rural businesses and communities would benefit from the move.

Sarah Lee, head of policy at the Countryside Alliance, said: "This is very good news for rural people, many of whom are paying for speeds they cannot receive because of a lack of infrastructure in their area.

"Broadband is no longer something that's 'nice' to have but a must have for everyone living in the UK, including those in the countryside."

Ms Lee added: "For too long rural homes and businesses have been in the slow lane of a two-speed digital economy."

Being able to get out of contracts with companies that could provide a service could prove very useful – as would better customer service and complaints handling.

A poll by the Federation of Small Businesses earlier this year showed that nearly half (49%) of the UK's million rural small businesses are dissatisfied with their broadband service.

This is nearly double the level of dissatisfaction experienced by urban small businesses (28%).

Some 1,509 interviews were carried out online by ORB International on behalf of the Countryside Alliance between 5 and 8 September 2014.

When asked which services should be universally provided, 82% or rural and 78% of urban respondents mentioned broadband.

But 56% of rural people said they did not feel the government was doing enough to ensure the service was provided in their area.

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